2 Dec

JUiCYHEADS celebrates 35 years of Sculpture Space!

Sculpture Space is unique in North America for its support of sculptors, both those who come to Utica, New York, as residency participants and those who continue after their residencies as working artists. The organization selects 20 artists each year for two-month residencies and has helped to advance the careers of more than 500 national and international artists since 1976. A non-profit organization with a 35-year record of success.  For the next few months JUICYHEADS will be featuring work from Sculpture Space artists. Click on a year and their name to experience their work: http://juicyheads.com/

 

Then at Sculpture Space:

From December 2, 1990 – January 31, 1991, I accompanied my partner Daniel Dugas during his residency at Sculpture Space in Utica, New York.  He went there to construct the elements for his installation: THE NEW PANDORA’S BOX.  Central New York State has a rich history dating back to its significance as a meeting place for the Six Nations.  The City of Utica was a melting pot of adventure and stories to be told.  I later wrote a short story based upon living the Sculpture Space experience and being in the US during the early days of the first Gulf War.

The entries Daniel and I have wrote here were collected from notebooks, reconstructed from past memories and / or from revisiting photos and video.

– Valerie LeBlanc

 

SNOW

That was a big storm, even for Canadians.  And it’s cold and damp.  We are wrapped with scarfs, tuques and mitts, walking slowly in single file in the knee-deep snow of Genesee Street en route to Mr. REDS.  We meet other walkers going up, coming down.  At every encounter we all put one foot in the deepest snow to let the other person pass.  From the air it must look like pirouettes of a silent ballet.  DD

WELCOME

On December 2, 1990, Daniel and I arrived in Utica via greyhound bus during the first snowstorm of the winter.  Although large and fluffy flakes began accumulating during the final miles of the bus ride from Montréal, we could not be held responsible for bringing it south, the Mohawk Valley of Central New York State lies smack in the snowbelt. VL

CHRISTMAS IN UTICA

They are called Appalachians, Adirondacks and sometimes they are said to be linked geographically to the Canadian Laurentians.  In any case, the snow covered mountains and hills there have that familiar purple/grey aura of bare hardwoods nestled in snow.  When winter comes to Utica, it is a Christmas card world straight out of Dickens.  VL

WAR

January 11, 1991 – 7 pm, Sculpture Space studio

The radio is on.  Politicians are debating the possibilities of going to war.  The stove is hot and it’s good because there is a big snowstorm outside.  The resonating voices and the radiating heat gets mixed in front of our eyes.  After hours of discussion the senators approved the Senate Joint Resolution.  War is coming.  DD  The Persian Gulf War Resolution

NATION OF WARRIORS

Once the Gulf War started, B52’s made night passes over Utica with the regularity of a milk run.  Off they went from the Rome Air Force base, carrying soldiers and supplies from the start to the finish of the bombing time period.  Meanwhile the debate raged on NPR, and many discussions in the cafés and on buses turned to worries about the threat of a prolonged state of war.  In my heart, I was a visitor to the country, on the streets, I was drawn into the news that made every headline.  The waitress’s father-in-law was called up as a reserve officer, one of the finest mechanics in town.  The car salesman’s daughter was an infantry soldier, he hoped for the best over coffee and eggs.  Generals ‘Stormin’ Norman’ Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell were all over the television news.  Rehashed and rehashed, tactical victories gave opportunities for veterans to enter the fray.  Old scraps were revisited as the current war played out, and Utica resembled the stage set of The Deer Hunter movie, more and more each day.  VL

APARTMENT

We got a small apartment on 939 Schuyler St.  It’s not big but as Jonathan (Kirk) pointed out “it’s cozy”.  There’s a hot plate and a toaster but the two can never be powered at the same time, as it will create a short.  And we will have to ask the owner to change the fuse.  The shower is also ‘unique’; it‘s perfect for anyone under 5 feet.   But, best of all are the trains.  It was worth taking the apartment.  The first time we saw it, we heard a loud sound and then another one, louder, closer.  We opened the curtains in a hurry to witness a freight train in all of its glory coming down the middle of the street right under our balcony.  You could almost reach out and shake hands with the Conductor!  DD

CULTURAL ICONS

Having lived for five years in Kingston, Ontario, as a kid, I was somewhat familiar with the cultural environment of Central and Upper New York State – from television of course.  As I sat glued to the T.V., I was storing up a range of programming highlights from Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Watertown, Ithaca, Utica and all points in-between.  Cartoons and black and white re-run movies started airing very early in the morning.  On weekends and holidays, I woke up early to soak it all in.

Upper New York State was a far cry from what I expected to find in the Big Apple, and yet different from what I had come to know in Canada.  With television as my window to the world: life down south in the United States of America, I knew that the hot dogs were bigger, more red; there was a bigger variety of candies; and dime store specialty gifts were more affordable.

All of those years later, as an adult, visiting Sculpture Space brought me to the actual source of some of those cultural icons already familiar to me.  I knew before arriving that bowling had been VERY big in Utica.  I personally felt that one of the most interesting programs on T.V. was the Sunday bowling.  Far from boring, the soothing voice of the announcer whispered the step by step action, building the tension of each player’s profile and emphasizing the high (monetary) stakes involved in winning the tournament.  And there were Utica Club Beer ads!  The jingle of the tournaments’ sponsor came back to me when I stood in the train yard outside the still-active Utica Club brewery.  The factory, with its high chimneys and the oversized letters’ sign towered high above street level, lending a larger than life silhouette to the Utica skyline.  VL

STOREFRONTS

Storefronts are fascinating.  They are markers of time, documenting life. In the few weeks since our arrival, we have noticed a lot of wig stores and wonder why.  It seems that every block has one.  Styrofoam heads with curly blond or long black hair resting on shelves, looking out all day long at people going by.  Somewhere downtown, between two wig stores, we saw an abandoned shoe store.  The front window is still offering a dazzling display of boxes sitting on pedestals.  Everything is coated with a layer of dust, 3 years thick at least.  It looks like the tomb of some great Egyptian ruler.  There are also wedding dress storefronts.  Today we stopped in front of one and took pictures.  DD

SCIENCE FICTION MEETS REALITY

When I walked on the street in Utica, a million story ideas appeared in my mind.  Every turn of the corner brought a unique storefront, café or colourful local character.  I had travelled all my life but was struck by the rich character of this city. For some reason, each encounter with a store clerk or conversation on the bus, seemed to present a string of other possible outcomes, all of them mysteries.

One day, after being spooked out by passing the darkest of abandoned parkades, I looked into a store window to see a perfectly arranged shoe display of the finest leather shoes.  Signs indicated the qualities of the particular brands carried and looking past the window box, in-store displays, and stacks of shoeboxes resembled a neatly organized library, complete with a sliding ladder to reach all of the available sizes.  It was definitely a very classy shoe store.

The only quirk about the place was that it was abandoned, and all of the fashions were 1940’s styles.  There was a thick layer of dust everywhere and everything was faded.  It looked as it the owners had just disappeared into thin air, leaving not a trace, and yet, in this city with a vibrant, animated street scene, no one and nothing had disturbed that shop.  I had often thought about the fact that Rod Serling, the science fiction writer of the television series The Twilight Zone had lived in Binghampton, a short distance from Utica.  When I thought about some shows from the series, I began to feel that the science fiction reality of his stories were hovering just below the surface here in Utica.  VL

STOVE

The wood stove at Sculpture Space is incredible.  It is a colossus object that looks like nothing else on earth.  It is the source of heat for the whole studio, the beating heart that allows residents to carry on.  When we arrived, in early December, Sylvia de Swann showed us the cords of wood outside and said, “Use as much as you need”.  We did.  DD

MUSIC

Music all day, music all night!  We all brought our favorite cassettes, but it’s Tracy (Brown) who has the biggest collection.  We listen pêle-mêle to: Voivod; John Cale; the grinders and the saws; The Red Hot Chile Peppers; Sinead O’Connor; the MIG welder; Bad Brains; NPR; hammers and cutters; all flowing and bouncing freely, helping us to concentrate and to create.    DD

OUTSMARTING THE DOGS


And in Utica there was Sculpture Space, that extremely well equipped and highly accommodating support for sculptors.  After a few days, I felt inspired to do a documentary about it.  I began to shoot possible cutaways.  I carried out preliminary interviews with Daniel, and the other artists currently in residence:  Tracy Brown, and Charlie Citron.

WUTR, Channel 2, the local television station supplying a percentage of local programming was located on top of Smith Hill in Deerfield, but its official address was Utica. I got dropped off outside of the station one morning to meet with the Programming Director.  Unfortunately, the weight of the impending war was thick in the air and the meeting was brief.  If war was declared, all programming would need to focus on that event.  Peaceful cultural concerns would be moved to the back burner.  I started down the hill to catch the bus, with not much hope for moving the documentary ahead.  That was when my real problems arose.

The walk back down was through a remote section of landscape with not much around but the dogs.  It seemed that everyone had already left for work and no cars passed me by either way.  I would not have cared except the walk was close to two miles and each abandoned home or farm had at least one dog.  I quickly developed a life-saving strategies.  Looking to the edges of the snow-covered road, I filled my pockets with as many rocks as I could find.  As the first of two beagles raced toward me from their driveway, I began throwing rocks.  No one was hit or injured but they got the message quickly and doubled back home yelping in defeat.  Whew!  There were two more encounters and then I used the ‘black bear strategy’ of lifting my black leather coat up high over my head.  On both of the other encounters, I charged toward the dogs yelling as loud as I could.  Unbelievably, it worked.  By the time I got to the bottom of the hill and found the bus stop, a german shepherd in his yard  started to run for the driveway, miracle of miracles, that owner was home and yelled for the dog to get back in the house.  I returned to Sculpture Space without a strong prospect for the documentary but I had a few stories to tell.  My own war to return went well.  VL

 

ESPRESSO

We needed a good coffee, something strong like an espresso.  We went out, looking for some.  After a little while, we saw in a window display, an espresso machine and some little Italian flags in coffee cups!  There was also a very small sign with the magic word Café above the door.  Despite the sign, the coffee machine and the flags, this place didn’t really look like a Café or a restaurant.  There was something private, secret about it.  Guided by our addiction, we opened the door.  It was quiet.  We saw a long counter and two little red enamel tables.  We looked at each other full of hope.  As we slowly made our way in, a man showed up and glared at us.  There was something Boris Karloff about him, something in his demeanor that was telling us that this might not be the right place.  But nevertheless we had found the place, we were in, and we were thirsty, there was no way back.   We risked, “We’ll have two espressos?”  There was a slight pause, a silence, and then the man pointed to one of the tables.  We sat down.  There was no music playing, no flowers on the table.  He was already behind the counter working.  We could feel his gaze.  The smell of the coffee started to take over.  After he put the cups in front of us, we paid him.  He pocketed the money and disappeared behind a curtain at the end of the counter.  Then, all of a sudden we heard a flurry of other voices, two or three other men.  They were speaking, yelling in Italian, swearing in English, the energy was on the angry side to say the least.  It felt weird being there.  We hoped that they were not talking about us.   We drank our espresso in a hurry, put a fifty-cent on the table and left.  As we stepped outside, we could feel the adrenaline rushing in our veins, it felt pretty good.   DD

After Sculpture Space Daniel Dugas and Valerie LeBlanc moved to Chicago where they did each their Master of Fine Arts Degrees at the School of the Art Institute.  They each continue to carry out individual creative projects and collaborations.  Social and political aspects of the world, as well as the technological changes that continue to augment reality are the pivots on which their practices revolve.  At the heart of their activities resides the desire to establish a rapport between what is experienced and what is imagined; the ideas that emerge to see the light of day, and those that remain below.  The underpinning motivation is to move communication forward.

Daniel’s Website: http://daniel.basicbruegel.com/

Valerie’s Website: http://valerie.basicbruegel.com/

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About Valerie LeBlanc


Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, pluri-­disciplinary artist and writer Valerie LeBlanc has worked in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Australia. Her creations travel between poetry, performance, visual and written theory. Valerie LeBlanc has been creating video poetry since the mid 1980’s, and is the creator of the MediaPackBoard (MPB), portable screening / performance device.

L’artiste pluridisciplinaire Valerie LeBlanc est vidéaste, poète, performeuse et essayiste. Son travail oscille entre le remarquable et le quotidien. Elle a exposé ses œuvres en Europe, en Australie et au Brésil. Elle crée des vidéopoèmes depuis le milieu des années 1980 et a inventé le MediaPackBoard (MPB), un appareil de projection mobile pour la performance.

Everglades
À partir de leur exploration du parc national des Everglades, Daniel H. Dugas et Valerie LeBlanc cartographient dans cet essai poétique les effets de la présence humaine sur le milieu naturel, les traces qu’elle y dépose. Everglades est une ode à la beauté, à la fragilité et à la résilience d’une nature aux prises avec une espèce envahissante, la nôtre.

Everglades
Through their exploration of the Everglades National Park, Daniel H. Dugas and Valerie LeBlanc document, in this poetic collection, the effects of human presence in the natural world and the traces left behind. Everglades is an ode to the beauty, the fragility and the resilience of nature faced with the invasiveness of a particular species, ours.

Date : Mars 2018
Genre : Poésie
Collection : Poésie
ISBN : 9782897441029
Français/English

Prise de parole


http://www.prisedeparole.ca/auteurs/?id=1264

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